for Preventive Action in Nepal
Final Report of the Web Conference
25 January to 1 February, 2001
Conflict Prevention Initiative
Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research
Harvard School of Public Health
The Conflict Prevention Initiative of the Harvard Program
on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research convened an
online conference on setting the priorities for preventive
action in Nepal from 25 January to 1 February 2001. Eighty
respected scholars, NGO activists and officials were selected
from Nepal and around the world to join this important forum.
The participants were carefully chosen to represent a wide
variety of different perspectives on the sources of the
The objective of the conference was to provide a closed
forum for the exchange of information and analysis on the
sources of social, political and economic insecurity in
Nepal as well as to deliberate on the most effective strategies
for conflict prevention in the region.
This conference was the first to develop the use of online
conferencing to facilitate exchange between scholars and
practitioners from around the world on conflict prevention
strategies. This provided an opportunity to bring together
a diverse group of individuals, many of whom would be unable
to meet in a more traditional forum.
This report presents a succinct summary of the main issues
and findings of the online discussion, including recommended
policies for organizations involved in the promotion of
human security in Nepal. It summarizes over 140 contributions
by over 80 participants, many of them from Nepal. The contributions
were not censored and represent a vast array of political
opinions regarding the sources of instability in Nepal.
The role of the Program was to present the various perspectives
and distill innovative recommendations from the discussion,
and not to determine the value of these observations or
to judge their appropriateness. Consequently, the report
reflects the views of the participants and not necessarily
those of the Harvard Program.
The report is divided into three sections. The first section
outlines the historical background of the unrest. The second
provides a discussion of the most significant factors contributing
to the current instability. An analysis of a wide range
of measures that may contribute to increased stability in
Nepal forms the final section.
Democratic changes swept through Nepal in 1990, bringing
high hopes to many in a country plagued by some of the lowest
standards of living in the world. Yet nearly ten years later,
daunting challenges remain.
The "People’s War", an armed uprising by Maoist insurgents,
was launched on 12 February 1996 under the command of Pushpa
Kamal Dahal, or "Comrade Prachanda" as he is widely known.
The Maoists have found considerable support among those
dissatisfied with the corruption and lack of development
under parliamentary democracy. The ultimate goal of the
Maoist party is to overthrow the government and establish
a people’s democratic republic in the creation of a socialist
Since the onset of violence, more than 1,600 people - primarily
police, suspected insurgents, informants and innocent civilians
- have been killed. The conflict has intensified since the
spring of 1998, with almost daily violent incidents in some
areas of the country. The influence of the Maoists is strongest
in the economically and socially deprived north and west
. But violence has now spread to well over half of Nepal’s
75 provinces. Today around 1.5 million of Nepal’s 24 million
citizens are said to live in areas under Maoist control,
and the insurgents have set up parallel government structures
in many villages. Maoists are reported to have mustered
considerable sympathy among students and in December 2000
were successful in enforcing a nationwide school strike,
closing nearly 40,000 schools and affecting more than five
The Nepali government is under considerable pressure due
to limited resources and fragmentation within political
parties, making effective governance difficult. The government
has found itself frequently unable to devise effective strategies
to contain the violence. The government has viewed the uprising
primarily from a security perspective and employed often
ill-equipped and poorly trained police forces in counter-insurgency
measures. The majority of deaths over the last five years
have been the result of direct clashes between the police
and the insurgents. Human rights groups, including Amnesty
International, have reported an escalation in human rights
abuses since 1996, listing among them extra-judicial executions,
"disappearances," torture, arbitrary arrests and detention.
In these reports, the Maoists insurgents have also been
accused of human rights abuses, including raping local women,
and killing or kidnapping civilians.
The first political dialogue between the Maoist insurgents
and the government of Nepal was held in October 2000 at
a secret location in Kathmandu. Both sides have declared
their willingness to hold further talks, but it remains
unclear whether such talks will ever materialize.
In the absence of successful negotiations, many believe
the situation can only worsen and that the resolution of
the conflict will depend on the ability of one of the two
sides to achieve a significant victory. The necessary strategies
and opportunities for a substantive political dialogue are
necessary before the parties can be expected to seek a peace
settlement for which neither is currently prepared.
III. FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO INSTABILITY IN NEPAL
The participants in to the Web conference engaged in a lively
and extended debate on the causes of the current instability
in Nepal. The following factors, identified by the participants
as the most significant, have increased the level of dissatisfaction
and resentment among the Nepali people. This resentment
has contributed to the success of the Maoist movement in
capturing support for their activities. These factors should
not be considered in isolation, but as an interrelated stimulus
for mounting unrest.
A. Political and legal factors
1. Frustrated democratic expectations
The 1990 revolution brought a new Constitution to the Nepali
people along with revived hopes and expectations for a democratic
polity with equal access to power for all, freedom of expression
and the right to form political parties. The revolution
established a constitutional monarchy and enlarged the sphere
of political life in Nepal. Although relatively free and
open elections have since been held on a regular basis,
these changes failed to fulfill all of the democratic expectations
of some Nepali citizens. The new political leaders, many
of them from the urban Brahman elite, continued to reinforce
traditional hierarchies in political, economic and social
organizations, and failed to change fundamentally the power
structure of a society that many considered discriminatory.
The majority of the population was thus excluded from benefiting
from the new constitutional system and remained marginalized
in political and economic terms. The optimism of 1990 and
the frustration that followed created inevitable resentment.
2. Inequitable political representation
Although the 1990 Constitution guaranteed equal treatment
before the law of the different ethnicities and castes in
Nepal, the document defined Nepal as a Hindu state. This
designation is a powerful symbolic issue in Nepal as it
is supported by the high-ranking Bahun and Chhetri castes,
to which all other castes were legally held to be socially
inferior before 1951. The clause has thus drawn much resentment
from those who feel excluded from the process of governance
on the basis of caste or ethnicity. In addition, ethnic
minorities have continued to be underrepresented in politics,
the legal profession and the civil service.
3. Corruption and loss of credibility
Some of the participants argued that the ruling elites in
Nepal have shown themselves unable as yet to develop and
implement coherent strategies for addressing the needs of
the Nepali people, and to overcome corruption among their
ranks. For example, a significant number of politicians
of all ideological affiliations are suspected to be profiting
from South Asian smuggling. These suspicions have led to
a significant loss of credibility of many of the democratic
institutions in Nepal in the eyes of the citizens. In comparison,
many have been impressed by the comparative order with which
the Maoists have been able to provide public services in
the areas under their control. The contrast has won the
Maoists many supporters.
4. Government inability to address human insecurity
The violence in Nepal has claimed the lives of more than
1,600 people since it began in 1996, among them Maoist guerrillas,
police officers, alleged police informers and innocent civilians.
Many have reported police involvement in cases of extra-judicial
killings and the disappearance of individuals in their custody.
The police have also been accused of concerted repression
and discrimination against peasants and ethnic minorities,
whom they consider to be Maoist supporters. The Maoists
have also conducted violent attacks against police officers
and suspected informants. The combination of an inability
to contain and address Maoist violence and the tendency
of the police to violate human rights has done little to
improve the standing of the authorities among the citizens.
B. Social and ethnic factors
1. Historical roots of social inequality
Many consider social and ethnic inequality to be the main
cause of the current crisis in Nepal; however, many participants
argue that the unrest cannot be characterized simply as
an ethnic conflict. It must be remembered that, until the
onset of the current instability, the various ethnicities
and castes lived together in near harmony. Recently, the
complex social and ethnic structure of Nepali society has
combined with economic and political factors to create growing
inter-group resentment. The Maoists have accused the government
of buttressing social and ethnic hierarchies, which has
given them the opportunity to present themselves as defenders
of those discriminated against by the state. This fact is
reflected in a high level of support for the Maoists in
the lower castes and the more disadvantaged ethnic groups.
2. Ethnic desire for autonomy
Ethnic minority groups have also been drawn to the Maoist
cause by promises of autonomy. Though they are not separatists,
the Maoists have used this promise to rally ethnic activists
to their ranks. Some observers have expressed concern that
this encouragement of secessionist ethnic movements to seek
autonomy may result in increased demands for the fragmentation
of the territorial unit of Nepal along ethnic lines - a
result which would be unlikely to please the Maoist insurgents.
3. Women and youth
Although some scholars maintain that the Maoist movement
is as patriarchal as other structures in Nepal, the movement
has made a particular appeal to women. For example, a demand
for property rights for women was among the 40 Point Demands
presented by the Maoists to the government as a prerequisite
for negotiations. Women now constitute a third of the Maoist
movement in some of the most affected districts. In addition,
some scholars have argued that literacy programs funded
by Western donors in the remote districts of Nepal have
unintentionally provided fertile ground for recruitment
for the Maoist insurgents who offer one of the few ways
for educated Nepali women to work for social change in rural
Nepali youth is also well represented in the Maoist ranks.
Increased education coupled with a lack of employment opportunities
have caused acute frustration among rural Nepali youth,
leading them to seek self-expression in the movement.
C. Economic factors
1. Rural poverty
Participants argue that successive governments have failed
to address the entrenched poverty of Nepal’s rural population.
A semi-feudal economy, based on subsistence agriculture
with low productivity levels, has kept the rural districts
in a state of underdevelopment. The urban political elite
has neglected political realities at the rural level, providing
the poor with no tangible redress for their frustrations.
The Maoists have presented themselves as focusing on the
needs of the “people of the hills” and thus hold considerable
appeal for these Nepali citizens.
2. Lack of confidence in financial institutions
Economic and financial institutions have also been dogged
by the same charges of corruption as political actors. The
ensuing lack of confidence in financial institutions and
the corresponding lack of private sector investment in Nepal
have done little to improve Nepal’s economic outlook both
in the short and long term. The dismal state of the economy
has reduced the possibilities for employment and has spurred
the emigration of some of the most talented of Nepal’s citizens.
D. Regional factors
1. Nepal and India
The shadow of India haunts the politics and economy of Nepal.
A number of Nepali politicians and Maoist leaders received
an Indian education, and many Nepalis are deeply influenced
by Indian politics and culture. Yet, India’s economic presence
is even more significant. Indian employment opportunities
lure a large number of Nepalis to India as seasonal migrant
workers. While most of this migration is voluntary, the
trafficking of women and children across the Indian border
remains a significant problem. Indian dominance has drawn
considerable resentment among the population of its smaller
and less powerful neighbor. Anti-India sentiment frequently
forms part of nationalist political platforms and has occasionally
erupted into violent protests on the streets of Nepal.
2. Nepal - the ‘battleground’ of its neighbors’ interests
Many Nepalis fear their country has become a proxy battlefield
for India and Pakistan, who have each established intelligence
services in Nepal. Reports have also linked smuggling networks
in Bombay with the Pakistani intelligence service and various
Nepali groups. These factors have prompted the Maoists to
include the closing of the border with India among their
main demands - a platform that has proved popular among
E. International factors
1. Perceived outside interference
Many Nepalis believe that international actors have exacerbated
the conflict in Nepal. The main international actors perceived
to have a significant role in the dynamics of the conflict
are development and donor agencies, which are fairly prominent
in Nepal. The participants made no mention of the work of
the United Nations. Some consider that the work of international
donors in Nepal has contributed to the success of the Maoist
movement by raising the expectations of rural people for
the development of their region. However, development projects
are often perceived as benefiting only a small number of
people, leaving the majority with a heightened sense of
deprivation and inequality. Other Nepalis are suspicious
of the conditionality of aid, and suspect that international
organizations direct development money to their own advantage.
Many resent the impact of perceived economic and political
imperialism by western actors of all stripes.
IV. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTIVE ACTION IN NEPAL
The participants identified a number of recommendations
to address the sources of human insecurity in Nepal and
to contain the conflict, ranging from ways to de-escalate
the violence, to long-term efforts to combat the causes
of instability. Many Nepali and Western participants considered
that solutions should come from within Nepal, and not be
imposed by external actors. All were concerned that any
effort must be concerted and holistic, addressing in a strategic
manner all of the major sources of instability.
The two recurring themes in the deliberation were the need
to engage the government, the political parties and the
Maoist insurgents in a dialogue on the sources of insecurity
in Nepal and the possibility of launching a referendum on
key political issues. These suggestions, however, were far
from being clearly defined.
The sections below discuss the recommendations of the participants
in some detail, ending with clearly stated policy recommendations.
A. Political and legal
1. Dialogue among political actors
The most common suggestion from the participants was a call
for a substantive dialogue between the disputing parties.
This is considered particularly urgent as an escalation
of violence may divert attention from key political, economic
and social issues that require attention. Yet there are
many differences of opinion about the feasibility of such
an exercise and the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Both the government and the Maoists have declared themselves
open to the possibility of dialogue, although there is considerable
disagreement about how a negotiation would proceed. Some
suspect the sincerity of this enthusiasm, however, considering
calls for ‘dialogue’ a political slogan to which the main
actors periodically pay lip service. The government may
be less willing to negotiate with Maoist groups, considering
them terrorists who should not be officially recognized
or given publicity for their platform. This unwillingness
may be their reason for not abiding by the demands presented
by the Maoists as prerequisites for dialogue.
Although there are high hopes for positive outcomes from
dialogue, many fear that long-term results are unlikely.
Potentially, dialogue could bring about agreement on key
issues such as the control of corruption and the commencement
of a discussion on the development of concrete strategies
to address fundamental economic, social and ethnic problems,
in particular some of the Maoists’ complaints regarding
the range of injustices suffered by women, minorities and
the lower castes. Dialogue could also result in agreement
to abide by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions,
ending attacks on civilians. However, some participants
argued that many of the Maoists’ demands cannot be settled
by dialogue and, for this reason, violence is likely to
outlast even a successful negotiation. For example, the
government could not agree to abolish the monarchy, one
of the Maoists’ 40 Point Demands. Some are also concerned
that any agreements reached would not be implemented in
good faith by the two parties.
2. Referendum on the form of
Efforts must be made to develop an atmosphere of trust
and to prepare an agenda for dialogue that all parties
could accept. The negotiators should focus on major
points of governance and those issues that could be
easily agreed by all parties. Those chosen to represent
their parties must be devolved sufficient authority
to allow flexibility in the negotiations. Expectations
should not be set too high and a clear strategy is required.
There may be a role for third-party negotiators but
outsiders must be wary of interfering too directly with
the modalities of the dialogue. It will also be necessary
to set the groundwork for the rehabilitation of the
insurgents into the mainstream of national life. One
of the issues to be discussed could be a referendum
on the form of government in Nepal.
Many of the participants were enthusiastic in their call
for a popular referendum on the form of government in Nepal.
Some base their proposal on the precedent of the 1951 proclamation
by King Tribhuvan, promising the election of a Constituent
Assembly in which the people could draft their own constitution
- a promise that was never fulfilled. Proponents argue that
this may prove the most democratic path out of the present
legitimacy quandaries. A referendum would rely on the will
of the people, rather than on formal and legalistic requirements.
Some observers believe that once the people have come to
a decision, the Maoists would have fewer grounds to garner
support for their cause. According to some, a referendum
would prove a speedier resolution than lengthy negotiations
and would only require the political will of National Congress
leaders and the King. A referendum could also address issues
that fall outside the power of the conflicting parties and
so would have no place at the negotiating table. An example
would be altering the role of the monarchy.
However, the subject matter of a referendum and the process
for holding one remain unclear. Some think that the modalities
of a referendum would be complicated and would entail lengthy
prior negotiations during which the parties are unlikely
to agree. A few participants were concerned that an interim
government would be needed, requiring the Nepali Congress
to share power with the Maoists, an arrangement they are
unlikely to support.
In addition, a referendum may put into question the entire
existing legal and political framework, resulting in the
creation of a new constitution - the sixth for Nepal in
50 years. A referendum is now unconstitutional. It may also
be unpopular among Nepalis, rekindling memories of the contentious
1981 referendum, which upheld the undemocratic panchayat
system. Some suspect that the ruling authorities would use
the referendum as a trump card in their struggle against
the Maoists while others believe it would be succumbing
to the Maoists’ demands. Many observers also believe that
holding a referendum would be to skirt the main issues.
The problem in their eyes is not the form of government
but its misapplication by the current regime.
3. Constitutional reform - role
of the monarchy
If efforts to resolve the unrest within the current
constitutional framework fail, a referendum on the form
of government could be considered. Such a decision should
not be taken lightly. Before any steps are taken, agreements
will be needed between all parties to agree on the precise
options presented to the people. A referendum could
be considered as part of a negotiation process.
Although many have been impressed with the rule of the present
monarch, King Birendra, some participants have questioned
the necessity of maintaining a monarchy in Nepal. Ending
the kingship is one of the Maoists’ central demands. Many
participants believe the institution is inconsistent with
true democracy in Nepal and that change is inevitable in
the future. The monarchy is also suspected of undermining
democratic institutions by forming an alternative locus
Removing the king would entail significant constitutional
reform in Nepal, which may be undesirable in the current
state of instability. Some fear that the abolition of the
monarchy would be catastrophic, removing one of the few
national institutions in Nepal still untarnished by accusations
of corruption. It is not clear this action would improve
the likelihood of peace.
4. Government treatment of minorities
Major reform of the constitutional monarchy should not
be considered as a strategy for preventive action in
Nepal in the short term, as the king is one of the few
stabilizing forces in the country. In the long term,
however, some participants believe that such a move
may be contemplated to allow the strengthening of democratic
Existing laws that govern the treatment of minorities are
not always implemented, and discriminatory treatment of
minorities at the local level has mobilized considerable
support for the Maoists. A government policy more carefully
devised to avoid caste, religious and ethnic discrimination
would decrease inequalities and attract people to the mainstream
who may otherwise be swayed by more radical factions. Some
have been careful to note that government actions on behalf
of ethnic minorities will not appease all the claims of
the more radical groups and the Maoists.
5. Constitutional reform - ensuring
the legal protection of ethnic minorities
The implementation of existing laws governing equal
treatment of minority groups must be improved immediately.
Where there are gaps in existing mechanisms, new laws
should be drafted to ensure equitable and fair treatment
to all Nepalis and avoid the frustrations that have
led to violence in the past.
According to many participants, political instability in
Nepal is rooted in the plight of the ethnic minorities,
and some advocate constitutional change to provide formal
clauses of legal equality. The clause in the Nepali Constitution
that describes Nepal as a "Hindu" state has become notorious
among those hoping for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious Nepal.
Despite the Constitution’s designation of Nepal as multiethnic
and multi-lingual, some are concerned that it remains too
silent on the equality of all minorities. The most important
of these concerns could be answered by minor amendments
to the present framework - designating the state as "multi-religious"
would be a prime candidate.
As the Constitution already contains the necessary provisions,
some believe that the protection of minorities must be addressed
in terms of the implementation of relevant laws and the
representation of minority people within the government.
Some hold that the majority-rule electoral system, i.e.
‘winner take all’, inherited from the West, is incompatible
with a multiethnic Nepal. Accordingly, they believe that
it is only through proportional representation that small
and disadvantaged groups have the opportunity to air their
grievances. Yet, others have responded this may prove a
recipe for further instability, as proportional representation
will bring the need for the formation of unstable coalitions
among the political parties.
A fairly undisputed means to improve the situation of minority
groups is through increased representation in the central
government and other loci of power. Many agree that the
declared multiethnic state of Nepal must have a multiethnic
government body. Without increased representation, mainstream
Nepali society will be unable to draw loyalty from these
groups, and they will continue to be attracted to the Maoists.
Methods must also be found to improve the representation
of women, the landless and the illiterate. All these disadvantaged
groups must be given a chance to participate in the political
process and exercise real power. One participant suggested
transforming the Upper House of government to ensure representation
of minority groups in the government.
The Maoists have drawn support from ethnic minorities with
promises of autonomy. However, the right even to limited
autonomy would require a national consensus that is unlikely
to be achieved in the present climate. Some participants
have argued that this program is highly problematic. The
recognition of a right to self-determination could lead
to the eventual fragmentation of the territorial unity of
Nepal and potentially to civil war. A solution could instead
lie in promoting the participation of minorities in the
existing government and ensuring that the centers of power
recognize their claims.
6. Improve the legitimacy and
reputation of politicians
Amendments to the Constitution to make Nepal a multi-religious
state could be considered in the medium term. In the
short run it would be more useful to stress the implementation
of existing provisions for the protection and equality
of ethnic minorities. Comparative analyses of national
laws for the protection of minorities in various countries
could provide interesting inputs into the political
debate in Nepal. Although improving the representation
of minorities is essential to a flourishing of democracy
in Nepal, establishing proportional representation may
not be the most effective means to accomplish this in
the short or medium term.
Discussions should begin on strategies to improve the
representation of ethnic minorities, women and other
underprivileged groups within the government system.
The illiterate and landless should be given particular
attention. The establishment of a legislative body representing
ethnic minorities, for example in a new Upper House,
could offer an interesting alternative to proportional
representation. Similar institutions in other countries
could inspire Nepali political parties in addressing
the representation of minority groups.
Self-rule among ethnic minorities should not be directly
encouraged. Instead, efforts should be made to begin
a dialogue on the legitimate grievances of ethnic minorities
and seek the increased representation of minorities
in positions of power.
The falling reputation of politicians in Nepal forms a crisis
in the legitimacy of the democratic institutions in the
eyes of many observers. Politics is not generally viewed
as an honorable profession and politicians are only expected
to look after their own interests. The need to root out
political corruption is seen as a prerequisite for all other
positive changes within Nepal. The Maoists have benefited
greatly from their comparatively untainted image and could
become an increasingly strong force unless the government
finds ways to improve its record. Many believe that those
in power are ready to address this issue but have not as
yet identified the concrete measures necessary to combat
corruption. If these measures are adopted unilaterally by
the government outside the context of a dialogue, much of
the attraction of radical groups will be removed.
Some advocate a role for the King in anti-corruption measures,
but such a move would be unconstitutional and may prove
unpopular in a climate where the abolition of the monarchy
is being considered in some quarters.
7. Empowering local government
The government should adopt more sophisticated campaign
finance laws to improve transparency and accountability,
formulate new laws to punish corrupt officials severely,
and apply these and existing anti-corruption laws with
the appropriate zeal. Civil society in its turn must
be adamant in its opposition to all forms of governmental
corruption. Measures to address corruption should be
discussed in professional circles in Nepal, such as
the Nepal Bar Association and the Nepali Chamber of
Many participants believe that the core of social instability
in Nepal lies in the inability of government to improve
the living conditions of rural populations. The capacity
of the Maoists to provide services effectively at the local
level has made it imperative that the government act immediately
to decentralize power. This issue could be addressed by
allowing local government institutions to function with
greater autonomy. The empowering of local institutions may
solve problems that are normally articulated as "ethnic"
but stem from poor relations between the central government
8. Preserve peace and security
in a lawful manner
The state should be restructured to give local communities
more control over administration and the distribution
of resources at the local level by increasing the powers
and decision-making functions of local government. Donors
and other international actors could have a role in
working to increase the capacity of local institutions.
There is vociferous disagreement over the role of state
security institutions in combating the insurgency. Some
participants feel that without an armed response, there
is no way to achieve security in Nepal. The need for security
is considered as a prerequisite for continuing development
initiatives and devising long-term strategies for the development
of the country. Those who advocate a more forceful military
response believe this is necessary to protect the human
rights of the citizens of Nepal, and should fully comply
with human rights standards.
Any use of armed forces would require wide agreement among
political parties. Some participants believe consensus remains
unlikely, given the lack of political will. In addition,
the government is not in direct control of the armed security
forces, and the Royal Nepal Army appears reluctant to engage
in counter-guerrilla warfare against the Maoists whom many
perceive as a political entity. Some fear as well that arming
the police would only provide the Maoists with the opportunity
to seize more effective weaponry. To some, undertaking a
security action against the Maoists is tantamount to declaring
war on a competing political party. And there is no guarantee
that security measures would prove successful. Many believe
that the Maoists would be prompted to escalate the violence
and would have the advantage in guerrilla warfare, due to
their popular support.
Undertaking security actions is perceived by many as an
informal declaration of civil war, a suspension of democracy
and a diversion from the problems at hand. A significant
majority believes that law and order cannot be maintained
by force, and political solutions in accordance with the
rule of law must be sought.
Many participants believe an important part of strengthening
and improving the image of the democratic institutions in
Nepal is the re-education of the police. Observers have
reported that the police are able to take arbitrary actions
with impunity, with existing laws governing their behavior
applied inconsistently if at all. In addition, there are
complaints against police brutality, torture and extra-judiciary
executions. This evolution has resulted in significant resentment
against the police - a dangerous development if clashes
develop between the authorities and a guerrilla group with
significant popular support.
9. Educational reform and addressing
Efforts should be made to restore security short of
the use of force. The latter should only be considered
if concerted efforts to negotiate fail and the independence
of Nepal is threatened. Any security actions must be
carried out in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions
and in support of the human rights of the civilian population.
Police officers should be trained in humanitarian principles
and human rights law, and mechanisms must be set up
to ensure compliance. Dissemination of these legal principles
by human rights and humanitarian law agencies should
Government inability to provide quality education, particularly
to rural children, is highlighted by the comparative success
of the Maoists. Yet Maoist-run schools are reported to be
used as recruitment centers for political activists and
cannot be regarded as appropriate by many Nepalis. For the
state education system to improve, it must address the needs
of the disadvantaged and the 70% of the population that
10. Respect for human rights
and international humanitarian law
To address illiteracy, incentives could be provided
to the literate unemployed to remain in the local area
as teachers. Local schools should focus on skills that
are useful to the community. Increased use of local
languages and a larger role for parents in the development
of curricula could be envisaged where appropriate.
All participants agree that the Maoists should be treated
in accordance with human rights standards, whether or not
they hold themselves to these same principles. While primary
responsibility lies with the government, the Maoists must
also uphold the rule of law if they are to be considered
a legitimate political force.
A series of agreements to respect human rights, the Geneva
Conventions and national law is urgently needed either within
or outside a framework of negotiations. Unilateral or bilateral
declarations to denounce the practice of arbitrary arrest,
torture, disappearance, rape and killing should be encouraged
from both parties. Even though the Maoists maintain their
exemption from laws they wish to overturn, they must abide
by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. INHURED,
a human rights group in Nepal, has prepared a working draft
of a potential agreement between the parties that could
be considered as a starting point for negotiations.
B. Economic measures
Civil society groups and international actors have a
role in pressuring the government and the Maoists to
agree to conform to international humanitarian standards
and applicable national laws as the first step towards
1. Long-term economic planning
In the long term, economic planning is required to counter
chronic underdevelopment and discourage people from resorting
to violence and extremist ideologies to air their grievances.
The primary thrust must be to diversify the primarily agrarian
economy and further develop a manufacturing base. In addition,
some have proposed efforts to map the socio-economic conditions
in Maoist areas to predict potentially unstable regions.
2. Focus on regions and local
Efforts should commence to analyze the socio-economic
conditions in deprived areas of Nepal and prepare a
long-term plan for development of those regions that
are in danger of future instability.
Many believe that the problems raised by the Maoists can
only be solved through the economic development of rural
Nepal. Hunger in the regions breeds support for extreme
activities among rural people. Current development efforts
have been hampered by the weakness of development bureaucracies,
and the gap between government rhetoric and performance
has frustrated many villagers. The success of the Maoists
in mobilizing local people to construct roads, electric
generators and bridges has convinced many that decentralized
decision-making could improve the effectiveness of economic
development programs. Decisions would then fall to the local
people, who are most affected by these programs, and so
could better allocate the limited resources available for
development. Strategies should be sought for the economic
development of the regions in accordance with principles
of gender equality and respect for local ecology.
3. Taxation based on the ability
The government, development agencies and civil society
groups should devise strategies to decentralize decision-making
on development issues and increase the capacity of local
infrastructures to address the immediate needs of the
local people. The communities should also become involved
in monitoring and evaluating development projects in
their area. Efforts should be made to initiate programs
to encourage self-employment in deprived areas, which
should be managed by local institutions.
Some people are worried that local communities currently
pay taxes to sustain the Maoists but have been unwilling
to comply with the government tax code. The nonpayment of
state taxes, if unchecked, will soon seriously handicap
the government. Some have suggested that this unwillingness
may stem from perceived corruption in the tax system and
a lack of sensitivity to their ability to pay. Those in
areas under Maoist control, who continue to pay government
taxes, face the tremendous financial burden of double taxation.
Role of regional and international actors
The government should consider revising tax codes to
be more responsive to the ability of Nepali citizens
to pay and find strategies to reduce corruption in the
1. International arena and economic planning
The ineffectiveness of border controls in combating illegal
trade and protecting the Nepali economy has contributed
to the conflict. Some have remarked that the liberalization
of the Nepali economy, encouraged by international and bilateral
lending and development agencies, makes it difficult for
the government to develop a coherent national economic strategy.
Indian economic policies have considerable impact on Nepal’s
weaker economy. Examples include the imposition of labor
conditions on Nepalese products and the flooding of Nepalese
markets with Indian products. Illegal trade further removes
control of the economy from political actors in Nepal.
2. The role of international
actors in Nepali politics
The regulation of Nepal’s borders should be improved
to combat smuggling. A common understanding on economic
and environmental issues should be developed with India.
International actors and donors may have a role in supporting
Nepal in the policing of borders.
Many consider the activities of donors and other foreign
actors essential to the development of Nepal, so long as
they act to support the capacity of the government and civil
society and do not compete with local institutions. Their
role in those districts partially affected by the current
unrest is particularly encouraged, and some hold that urgent
development activities should not be put on hold during
the current instability. Foreign actors should avoid potential
dependency created by economic aid and must make all efforts
to encourage local participation in their activities.
International donors should be wary of becoming embroiled
in Nepali politics, where suspicions of external influence
are rife. They may have a role, however, in supporting measures
for improving governance in the regions, and pressing the
government to promote democracy.
A lack of communication between donors and local people
may result in development agencies acting in competition
with, rather than in support of, local institutions. The
misuse of development funds through institutional corruption
or to prop up ineffective institutions is, however, also
3. Mediation and experience sharing
International agencies should maintain political neutrality
and focus on supporting development agendas and good
governance. Development activities should continue wherever
possible during the current unrest. These activities
should be carried out in an atmosphere of transparency
The formation of focus groups could be considered. Members
of local communities, local government and donors would
assemble to discuss development strategies and ensure
aid acts to support the building of local capacities.
Some propose that international actors should facilitate
a dialogue between the government and the Maoists, but others
have been wary of international interference in Nepali affairs.
There is considerable enthusiasm for an international role
in sharing experience from other countries in crisis.
International actors should offer support to Nepal in
planning negotiations with the Maoists. They must remain
unbiased and await internal efforts before becoming
directly involved in mediation.
An international colloquium of decision-makers from
Nepal and other countries with similar problems could
be convened. This forum would provide the opportunity
to share advice and experience on effective measures
to de-escalate the violence and contain the current